Robots already do a lot of the jobs that we humans don't want to do, can't do, or simply can't do as well as our robotic counterparts. In factories around the world, disembodied robot arms assemble cars, delicately place candies into their boxes, and do all sorts of tedious jobs.
Many of us grew up watching robots on TV and in the movies:
Rosie , the Jetsons' robot housekeeper;
Data , the android crewmember on "Star Trek: The Next Generation“
The Honda Motor Company developed ASIMO, which stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility , and is the most advanced humanoid robot in the world. According to the ASIMO Web site, ASIMO is the first humanoid robot in the world that can walk independently and climb stairs
In addition to ASIMO's ability to walk like we do, it can also
Understand preprogrammed gestures and spoken commands
Interface with IC Communication cards.
ASIMO has arms and hands so it can do things like turn on light switches, open doors, carry objects, and push carts .
Rather than building a robot that would be another toy, Honda wanted to create a robot that would be a helper for people -- a robot to help around the house, help the elderly, or help someone confined to a wheelchair or bed. ASIMO is 4 feet 3 inches (1.3 meters) high, which is just the right height to look eye to eye with someone seated in a chair. This allows ASIMO to do the jobs it was created to do without being too big and menacing .
WALKING LIKE A HUMAN
Honda researchers began by studying the legs of insects, mammals, and the motion of a mountain climber with prosthetic legs to better understand the physiology and all of the things that take place when we walk -- particularly in the joints. For example, the fact that we shift our weight using our bodies and especially our arms in order to balance was very important in getting ASIMO's walking mechanism right. The fact that we have toes that help with our balance was also taken into consideration: ASIMO actually has soft projections on its feet that play a similar role to the one our toes play when we walk. This soft material also absorbs impact on the joints, just as our soft tissues do when we walk.
ASIMO has hip, knee, and foot joints . Robots have joints that researchers refer to as " degrees of freedom ." A single degree of freedom allows movement either right and left or up and down. ASIMO has 34 degrees of freedom spread over different points of its body in order to allow it to move freely. There are three degrees of freedom in ASIMO's neck, seven on each arm and six on each leg. The number of degrees of freedom necessary for ASIMO's legs was decided by measuring human joint movement while walking on flat ground, climbing stairs and running .
ASIMO's vision system consists of two basic video cameras for eyes, located in its head. ASIMO uses stereoscopic vision and a proprietary vision algorithm that lets it see, recognize, and avoid running into objects even if their orientation and lighting are not the same as those in its memory database. These cameras can detect multiple objects, determine distance, perceive motion, recognize programmed faces and even interpret hand motions. For example, when you hold your hand up to ASIMO in a "stop" position, ASIMO stops. The facial recognition feature allows ASIMO to greet "familiar" people.
ASIMO is not an autonomous robot. It can't enter a room and make decisions on its own about how to navigate. ASIMO either has to be programmed to do a specific job in a specific area that has markers that it understands, or it has to be manually controlled by a human.
ASIMO can be controlled by four methods:
Wireless controller (sort of like a joystick )
ASIMO can recognize and react to several gestures and body postures, allowing users to command ASIMO nonverbally. You can point to a particular spot you want ASIMO to walk towards, for example, and it will follow your lead. If you wave to ASIMO, it will respond with a wave of its own. It can even recognize when you want to shake its hand.
As development continues on ASIMO, today Honda demonstrates ASIMO around the world to encourage and inspire young students to study the sciences. And in the future, ASIMO may serve as another set of eyes, ears, hands and legs for all kinds of people in need. Someday ASIMO might help with important tasks like assisting the elderly or a person confined to a bed or a wheelchair. ASIMO might also perform certain tasks that are dangerous to humans, such as fighting fires or cleaning up toxic spills.